Lawmakers condemn ‘brutal and violent killing’ of Tyre Nichols, call for justice after video of arrest released

(City of Memphis via AP)
The image from video released on Jan. 27, 2023, and partially redacted by the City of Memphis, shows Tyre Nichols on the ground during a brutal attack by five Memphis police officers on Jan. 7, 2023, in Memphis, Tenn. Nichols died on Jan. 10. The five officers have since been fired and charged with second-degree murder and other offenses. (City of Memphis via AP)

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify that Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) is a member of the House.

Lawmakers condemned the “brutal and violent killing” of Tyre Nichols on Friday night, after Memphis authorities released graphic footage of the traffic stop that resulted in Nichols’s death earlier this month.

“The brutal and violent killing of Tyre Nichols by officers sworn to protect the community is unconscionable,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said in a tweet. “Justice for Tyre Nichols must be swift and complete.”

The video of Nichols’s arrest on Jan. 10 showed the responding officers deploying pepper-spray and a stun gun against and repeatedly kicking and punching the 29-year-old Black man. Nichols can be heard yelling for his mother throughout the beating.

Five officers involved in Nichols’s death, all of whom are Black, were fired from the Memphis police department last week and charged on Thursday with second-degree murder and other crimes.

“A dangerous culture of violence has permeated far too many police departments in this country. Time and time again, it is lethal,” Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) wrote on Twitter in response to the footage. “Tyre Nichols should still be here today. We must change the culture that perpetuates these tragedies and bring those accountable to justice.”

Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), the head of the caucus’s Policing, Constitution and Equality Task Force, said the “vicious murder” of Nichols has left them “shaken to the core.”

“The utter lack of humanity on display in the video defies even the worst expectations,” they said in a statement. “As mothers, seeing Tyre call out for his mother is deeply painful.” 

“People are rightfully furious by what we’ve seen,” Jayapal and Coleman added. “That anger is justified, and must be directed toward demanding accountability and reform of law enforcement and the criminal legal system, including an end to the police culture of use of force.”

Many other lawmakers similarly responded to the footage with horror and a version of the refrain “Tyre Nichols should be alive today.” 

“Tyre Nichols should be alive today,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said in a statement. “My heart aches for his family, friends, and loved ones, who are dealing with an unimaginable loss. His death is a grave injustice. Those responsible must be held accountable, and we can’t stop there.”

“You do not need to see the video to know that Tyre Nichols should be alive today,” Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) said in a tweet. “I applaud the swift actions taken to hold those responsible for his killing to justice. However, police accountability must be the rule, not the exception.”

Many Democrats, including President Biden, called for the passage of police reform, particularly the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, in the wake of videos’ release.

While there has been a swift response to Nichols’ death with the indictments of the five officers, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) noted on Friday that this “cannot bring Tyre back.”

“Yes, the police officers who brutally murdered him must be held accountable,” Sanders said in a tweet. “But even their conviction on the strongest possible charges cannot bring Tyre back. We must do everything in our power to end police violence against people of color.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), one of few Republicans to comment on the footage on Friday, also called for “swift, decisive action.”

“We have been here too many times before. We cannot continue down this path. America cannot stand silent,” Scott said in a statement. “This was a man beaten by the power of the state. We must unite against this blatant disregard for human life especially from those we trust with immense power and responsibility.”

— Updated 11:25 p.m.

Tags body camera footage Bonnie Watson Coleman Bonnie Watson Coleman Cory Booker Cory Booker George Floyd Justice in Policing Act Gwen Moore Hakeem Jeffries Hakeem Jeffries james clyburn James Clyburn Memphis Memphis Police Department police brutality Pramila Jayapal Pramila Jayapal Tennessee Tim Scott Tyre Nichols

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